Neural Circuits One Step At a Time

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Science  16 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6185, pp. 673
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6185.673-a

How do simple neurons come together to form a complicated circuit? To answer this question, Pecot et al. studied a well-defined circuit in the eye of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which is composed of two different types of neurons, to learn the intricate steps in the circuit-building dance. The fruit fly's eye is built of repetitive units made up of eight photoreceptor neurons and five lamina neurons each. Each unit perceives light and transmits chemical signals into the fly's brain. But before the unit can work, the circuit needs to form. That happens step by step, as one neuron signals to another. Photoreceptor neurons of type 1 through 6 send a chemical signal to lamina neuron 3. Lamina neuron 3 in turn sends out a homing beacon to guide photoreceptor neuron 8 to its correct destination. Without the correct signals, lamina neuron 3 dies, and without the lamina homing beacon, photoreceptor neuron 8 remains lost in no-man's land.

Neuron 82, 320 (2014).

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